Microbiota. How to take care of gut bacteria

    We Atlas  has described how working microbiota which the bacteria live in the intestines and the Russians as the microbiota influences on the development of diseases. Today we share information on how to take care of gut bacteria in order to stay healthy.

    Illustration by Rentonorama


    Fiber is a complex carbohydrate or dietary fiber that is not digested by the body but fermented by intestinal bacteria. Nowadays, fiber is an affordable superfood that has been proven to bring many benefits to the human body.

    Fiber intake is associated with a low risk of developing diseases and death from various diseases. According to a large meta-analysis published in Lancet magazine, a fiber-rich diet reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and mortality from various causes by 13–33%. There is also a positive effect of fiber intake on cholesterol and blood glucose. At the same time, a low glycemic diet had more modest results than a diet rich in fiber.

    There is debate about the effect of fiber on weight. Systematic reviews show that the body is saturated faster when you consume complex carbohydrates, which can affect the total number of daily calories and help lose weight. On the other hand, many studies use fiber supplements that saturate more than food.

    Daily fiber intake varies from country to country. In the US, women are advised to consume 25 grams of fiber per day, and men - 38. The British Nutrition Institute recommends that all adults consume at least 30 grams daily. That is pretty much.

    For example, an average pear contains about 5 grams, an apple - 4.4, a banana or an orange - 3, a boiled potato with a skin - 4, a cup of oatmeal - 5. In order to follow the recommendations, each meal should contain 8-10 grams dietary fiber.

    To calculate how many grams of fiber you ate per day is difficult, since in Russia the products most often indicate the total amount of carbohydrates, and how many of them are fiber remains unclear. A food diary can help in counting: write down what foods and in what quantity you ate during the day, and in your free time look at the proportion of fiber in them. To do this, you can use the table of the Canadian community of nutritionists or a database of food products from Self magazine.

    When processing complex carbohydrates, some bacteria produce fatty acids. They nourish the intestinal cells and support its protective functions. Fatty acids affect the production of mucus (mucus), which is a barrier layer between the walls of the intestine and pathogenic bacteria. Mukus protects the intestines from acidity during digestion.

    Interestingly, different types of fiber act differently on the intestines. Soluble fibers absorb water and form a gel-like substance that helps food pass through the intestines faster, reducing exposure to the intestinal walls. Insoluble fiber does not interact with water and only a small part of it is digested by bacteria. However, such fibers help form feces.

    Prebiotic - those types of fiber that bring the greatest benefit to microbiota. It is these species that mainly feed the intestinal bacteria, which is why prebiotic foods are recommended to be regularly consumed. These types of fibers include fructooligosaccharides, oligofructose, inulin, beta-glucans, galactooligosaccharides, isomaltose, lactulose, resistant starch, xylo- and arabino-oligosaccharides.

    Typically, a single product may contain several types of prebiotics. It’s not worth bothering and choosing certain prebiotic foods if you don’t know the composition of your bacteria. To get all kinds of prebiotics, it’s enough to have a varied diet and eat fiber-rich foods.

    If the composition of bacteria is known and you know that you have fewer bacteria than a healthy population, you can increase their numbers by including in the diet foods with prebiotics that this genus feeds on. This is how the test "Genetics of Microbiota" from Atlas is arranged .


    Several studies have shown that aerobic exercise has a positive effect on the composition of bacteria in the intestines. Aerobic activity refers to any physical activity that requires a lot of oxygen: running, swimming, aerobics, skiing, dancing, cycling.

    According to the results of the American project to study microbiota (American Gut Project) people, who were involved more often than others, have a more diverse microbes. Another study compared the gut bacteria of elite rugby athletes and people with a sedentary lifestyle. It turned out that professional athletes have a higher representation of Akkermansia muciniphila, a bacterium that is associated with a low body mass index.

    Animal studies also confirmthe relationship between physical activity and intestinal health. In rats that liked to run, the concentration of butyric acid and the presence of bacteria producing it were greater than those of passive relatives.

    Another study compared the microbiota of people with similar diets, but with different levels of physical activity. To measure the level of sports training, the participants measured the maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) - the value that is used to measure endurance. It turned out that the higher the person had the ability to consume oxygen, the more diverse was his microbiome.

    The mechanism of the influence of sports on the microbiota remains unclear. It is known that endurance exercises strongly affect oxidative stress, intestinal permeability, muscle damage and immune responses, in which microbiota also takes part.

    The World Health Organization recommends performing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or at least 75 minutes of endurance training per week.


    Antibacterial hygiene products often contain triclosan, which negatively affects the health of microbiota. A study in mice showed that this substance increases the risk of ulcerative colitis and tumors in the intestines.

    Scientists note that the reason for this may be the antibacterial properties of triclosan: in mice, due to its effect , the diversity and representation of beneficial bacterial species such as Bifidobacterium has decreased .

    At the same time, differences in efficiencybetween ordinary and antibacterial soap - no. Both remove dirt well and reduce the risk of disease equally. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the addition of triclosan and 18 other antibacterial components to soap in 2017. However, there remained other connections that did not fall under the ban.

    If washed with ordinary soap, the balance of microbiota is likely to not be disturbed, but it is better to choose a mild cleanser that will not wash away natural fats. But it’s better to do without an enema. This procedure leaches the microbiota and protective intestinal mucus.

    In the next article, we will describe in detail how drugs affect the composition of intestinal bacteria.

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